Norman was a consummate racing driver in his own right, good enough to win a D-type seat in the fateful 1955 Le Mans. But his talent was considered too important to risk in racing, so the track he became most familiar with was MIRA, which is still used by coach testers today. There he accumulated more than 1.25 million miles at an average speed of more than 100 mph.
It also survived three huge accidents there, the slowest at over 130 mph. On all three occasions, in a type C car, a type D car and, most famously, the XJ13 Le Mans, which had never run, got under the escarpment and left until the car stopped. Although he had no belts or fall protection, he did not suffer any serious injuries.
He was also the man who received the call at MIRA near the end of a working day telling him that the E-type in which he was needed in Geneva for breakfast. In 1961 he did the 760 miles in 14 hours and then spent the whole next day taking passenger rides to journalists.
Labour regulations forced him to retire in 1965, after which he embarked on the second part of his career, spending more than 30 years as a Jaguar ambassador. He had always looked forward to his century, not least because he wanted to drive the XJ13 at 100 mph on his 100th birthday. He was named an EFC on the 2015 New Years Honour Roll, of which he professed to be “truly satisfied”.
Norman Dewis was a short man, but a giant of our industry. Even today, the feeling of a Jaguar is largely based on how he liked to drive a car. He was cool to the core and a natural-born storyteller, but with an inner steel that couldnt be missing. He will be missed not only by those lucky enough to know him, but also by the thousands of people from all over the world who came to hear him speak. There should also be millions more: anyone who has been saved by the fact that his disc brakes stopped the car in time owes a little bit of his salvation to Norman Dewis OBE. All of us who are part of Autocar want to send our sincere condolences to his family.
Norman Dewis by Jaguar – A fondo a 95
Working with Norman Dewis, the legendary Jaguar Land Rover test engineer
History of the iconic Jaguar E-Type